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Review – Superman #18 (DC Comics)

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Superman #18

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Variant Cover: Bryan Hitch & Alex Sinclair
Maturity Rating: Teen
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: December 11th, 2019

In Superman #18 Clark Kent comes face to face with his greatest foe yet—the truth. After 80 years of patrolling the skies of Metropolis, the glasses are finally coming off!

Nothing but the Truth in Superman #18

Imagine that you were faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and soar higher than the heavens themselves. Now, imagine that you couldn’t tell a soul. That you were forced to keep hidden from the world that which made you most special. How would you cope? How long could you live the lie? In Superman #18, Clark Kent must come to terms with these questions as he prepares to battle his most formidable foe yet—the truth. 

Writing

Superman #18 (DC Comics) main cover by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis
Superman #18 (DC Comics) main cover by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis

The concept of duality has always been present in superhero comics. An alter ego or “secret identity” is a way of protecting friends and family. The logic is that if the villain were to ever learn just who the hero was, they’d then know how to hit them where it hurts. At least, this is what the heroes tell themselves.

But let’s be honest—Batman doesn’t wear the cowl to protect Alfred. His motivations are much more self-serving. It’s a form of escapism; a way to shed the coils and restraints that come from being Bruce Wayne. By donning the mask, he becomes something else entirely: a vessel free of pain and a true instrument of vengeance. 

“There’s something else I think you all need to know about me…”

Superman is the complete opposite. “Clark Kent” is the identity Kal-El chose; it’s the life he wants to live. More importantly, Superman loves being Clark Kent. It isn’t out of obligation or for appearance’s sake. Given the choice between the two, Superman chooses to be Clark Kent. In many ways, he’s more human than any of his earthborn Justice League counterparts: he has a good relationship with his parents, holds down a job, he has a wife, a son—a family. Clark Kent, unlike Bruce Wayne, doesn’t view his life through two separate lenses. His goal isn’t to keep the two biggest aspects of his personality separate but, rather, to find a way for them to harmoniously coexist. 

In Superman #18 Brian Michael Bendis is swimming in completely uncharted waters. For the first time in over 80 years, the cat is out of the bag. The easy question to ask is how this will impact Superman’s rogues’ gallery, but it’s far from the most important. How will those closest to the Big Blue Boyscout take the news? Will he be supported or ostracized by the members of the Justice League? Most importantly, how will a Superman free from the guilt, weight, and pressure of keeping his biggest secret “a secret” choose to behave? 

Art

The overall aesthetic of Superman #18 is one of nostalgia. Ivan Reis‘ pencils teleport readers back to another epoch in comics. An era of true will, effort, and skill. Gone are the cookie-cutter designs and predictable panel layouts. Reis is creating something truly grandiose on both the micro and macro levels. His skill is undeniable but it’s his imagination and mechanicians that truly set him apart as one of the unfettered greats working in the industry today.  

Just look at his ability to convey the emotional relationship between Perry and Clark in Superman #18. No words are uttered throughout the entire page and none are needed. The whole scene unfolds in a beautiful silhouette, almost as if to suggest Clark was afraid to “come into the light”. Unable to find the words, Clark opens his shirt, in that most iconic of ways, to reveal the red ‘S’ emblazoned on his chest. Overcome with emotion, the two men embrace as father and son. It’s truly one of the most touching panels I can recall in recent memory. It’s Bendis’ desire to explore Kal-El’s humanity that makes Superman #18 a monumental chapter in the Kryptonian’s canon. 

I mentioned before that there’s an almost nostalgic quality to the art in Superman #18. By and large, this is a result of Alex Sinclair’s diverse color palette. It offers a unique current perspective on the world of Metropolis, while simultaneously harkening back to that Golden Era of Superhero comics. It’s a cornucopia of hope, a wash of belief, and a true coloring of the mind’s eye. 

Conclusion

Very rarely do I pick up a title in the middle of its run. I hate “not knowing”, no matter how trivial the previous details may be. Even rarer still is for me to pick up a Superman book. I’ve just never been a fan; I don’t really know why. Maybe because Superman always felt “safe”. Kind of like a “cheat code”. There was just never anything challenging or new brought to the table—until now. What Brian Michael Bendis is doing isn’t just a great move for the Boy in Blue but for all superheroes. It’s high time we explored the consequences, both good and bad, that inevitably come once the hero sheds his (or her) “secret identity”. Of all the foes Superman has fought and vanquished, the truth may prove to be his most worthy adversary yet. 


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Jordan Claes

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